Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function and is characterized by a reduction in muscle mass and fiber cross-sectional area, alterations in muscle fiber type and mitochondrial functional changes. In rhesus monkeys, calorie restriction (CR) without malnutrition improves survival and delays the onset of age-associated diseases and disorders including sarcopenia. We present a longitudinal study on the impact of CR on early stage sarcopenia in the upper leg of monkeys from ~16 years to ~22 years of age. Using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry we show that CR delayed the development of maximum muscle mass and, unlike Control animals, muscle mass of the upper leg was preserved in CR animals during early phase sarcopenia. Histochemical analyses of vastus lateralis muscle biopsies revealed that CR opposed age-related changes in the proportion of Type II muscle fibers and fiber cross-sectional area. In contrast the number of muscle fibers with mitochondrial electron transport system enzyme abnormalities (ETS(ab)) was not significantly affected by CR. Laser capture microdissection of ETS(ab) fibers and subsequent PCR analysis of the mitochondrial DNA revealed large deletion mutations in fibers with abnormal mitochondrial enzyme activities. CR did not prevent stochastic mitochondrial deletion mutations in muscle fibers but CR may have contributed to the maintenance of affected fibers.
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